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2021 online sermons » Robert Jeffress » Robert Jeffress - Good Grace Spiritual Surgery - Part 1

Robert Jeffress - Good Grace Spiritual Surgery - Part 1


Robert Jeffress - Good Grace Spiritual Surgery - Part 1
TOPICS: Grace Gone Wild

Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". It's tragic when a fellow Christian gets caught up in personal sin. But what about when that person's wrongdoing starts to affect other? Or if that person hurts you, personally? In this message, I'm going to begin identifying three types of serious sin that require immediate confrontation and correction. My message is titled "Good Grace Spiritual Surgery" on today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".

"Tammy, I thought you should know that I overheard Rhonda criticizing you, especially the way you dress in front of some of the women in our small group", Patty informed her best friend. Since Rhonda had never voiced her concerns to Tammy personally, Rhonda was clearly guilty of gossip. Should Tammy confront Rhonda directly about her sin? If Rhonda is unrepentant should she follow the steps outlined in Matthew 18, and take several more people to talk to Rhonda? If she still refuses to acknowledge her sin, should the leaders of the church expel Rhonda from the congregation for her gossip? Or should Tammy simply forgive Rhonda and move on?

Last time, we began looking at the subject of church discipline, correcting Christians who are involved in sin, and how that relates to the whole doctrine of grace. When does grace require us to forgive those Christians who are sinning, and when does obedience require that we confront Christians who are sinning? That's what we're going to talk about today. I mean, the fact is, the whole idea of correcting other people who are involved in sin, the idea of church discipline is something that is completely foreign to our way of thinking today, especially in the individualistic, western American culture that we have. Everybody is responsible for their own relationship with God. Judge not, lest ye be judged. Who are we to try to correct somebody else? And yet, as we saw last time, the Bible repeatedly talks about the responsibility we have to confront sinning Christians and restore them to a right relationship with God.

Remember last time, we said, there are three purposes for church discipline. First of all, to reclaim a Christian who has been overtaken by sin. Just as the story of the good Samaritan illustrates, when you see somebody who has been beaten and ambushed and battered and left for dead by Satan and by sin, we're not to just walk by and leave them to their own consequences. We're to stop and render aid. That's what Galatians 6:1 is all about. A second reason to correct sinning Christians is to maintain the witness of the church. Remember the church at Corinth? They prided themselves on the fact that they allowed a member of their church to have sex with his stepmother without any consequence whatsoever. It had become a scandal in the city of Corinth, a pagan town, and yet, the church was unwilling to deal with it, and they lost their witness in the city because of it.

And a third reason for church discipline is to sustain the spiritual health of the congregation. Remember Paul saying, "A little leaven leavens," impacts, "The whole lump of dough"? In the same way, it only takes a little sin in the congregation to infect an entire congregation. But the question arises, when do we confront sinning Christians about their sin? Do we really want to make policing other Christians the sole focus or the primary focus on our church? Well, first, let's look at different categories of sin that you and I run into every day, and how we're to respond to them. The first category of sin are personal offenses against us. If you have your Bible, turn to Matthew 18, Matthew 18. Jesus makes a clear distinction between sins and sins against us. Sins we see in other people and sins other people commit us.

Now you've heard people talk about Matthew 18. Oh, we need to follow the steps in Matthew 18. Let's look and see what Matthew 18 is really all about. Actually, the context for Matthew 18 begins in verse 12. "What do you think"? Jesus said. "If any man has 100 sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the 99 sheep on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying? If it turns out that he finds that sheep, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than the 99 which have not gone astray". There's so many times that passage is used to talk about evangelism. The 99, we're to leave the church and go out and search of the one unbeliever, and we're more joyful when we find the one unbeliever than over the 99 who remain back in the church. That's true. As Christians, we have a responsibility to evangelize, Matthew 28, to go and make disciples of all people, but that's not what this verse is talking about.

Remember, the one that is lost from the sheepfold is not a crocodile, is not a kangaroo, it's a sheep. And it's a sheep that belongs to the shepherd, that is a part of the sheepfold. This is talking about going out and rescuing not a non-Christian, but a Christian who has strayed from the fold. That's the context of this. And that's why, in verse 15, Jesus continues. "Therefore, if your brother sins," not some alien, that you have no relationship, a fellow brother or sister in Christ, "If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private. If he listens to you, you have won your brother". Well, what if he doesn't listen to you? We'll get to that in a few moments. Then Jesus gives three more steps to take in trying to reclaim a Christian who is involved in sin. But when we get to verse 21, after Jesus has talked about how to handle Christians who sin, the topic changes.

Look at verse 21. Then Peter came and said to him, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him"? Peter said, okay, enough of this theoretical stuff about other Christians. I want to know about me. If somebody sins against me, how am I supposed to respond? One word: forgive. Forgive! Jesus says nothing in this instance about taking two or three people to go with you, and says nothing about turning this person out of the church. You're to forgive. You don't have to confront somebody about their sin to forgive them. Mark 11:25, Jesus said, "If you're standing in the temple, and you're praying, and you remember, you've got something against somebody, you're to forgive them right on the spot".

And there's a difference between sins in general and sins against me. Go back to our little melodrama here with Rhonda and Tammy. I mean, Rhonda was guilty of gossip. What was Tammy to do? She should forgive her friend of gossip. Well, yeah, pastor, but isn't she also sinning against the congregation? Doesn't Rhonda need to be corrected for what she's doing? Oh, you bet she needs to be corrected, but not by Tammy. It's very hard for those of us who have been wounded by somebody not to want to seek revenge against them. The correction of somebody who has sinned against us is best to left to somebody else in the church to handle, not to us. There's a difference between sins and sins against us. If we come up against sins against us, we are to forgive. But there's a second category, and that is personal sins in other people.

What if we do see a fellow Christian who has been overcome by anger, or by immorality, or by an addiction, or something else that is destroying his life, and perhaps, the life of his family or others? What are we to do? We're not to walk by and do nothing. If we care about our fellow Christians, we're to try to win them, to restore them. That's what James had in mind in James 5:19, when he said, "My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back," verse 20, "Let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death, and will cover a multitude of sins". In this passage, there's nothing about taking it before the church and voting the person out of the church. We're talking about people who are involved in what I call personal sins. They're not sins that are well known in the congregation. They're not on the front page of the Dallas Morning News. These are personal sins that still are destroying the life of a fellow Christian.

We're to be involved in helping turn them back. It's this kind of sin, James, or, pardon me, Paul had in mind in Galatians 6:1, when he said, "Brethren, if any one of you is caught," ambushed, "In any trespass, those of you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, each one looking to yourself, so that you, too, will not be tempted". Again, nothing about church meetings and telling the congregation. These are personal sins of a fellow Christian. But there's a third category of sin that sometimes demands drastic action, and those are corporate sins against the church, sins that infect the whole body of Christ.

Now admittedly, there are some people who think every sin affects the body of Christ, even if it's not known by the church as a whole, all sin needs to be dealt with. Martin Luther was one of those people. Martin Luther, one time, talked about a man in his church who had sold his house for more money than Martin Luther thought it was worth, and therefore, Martin Luther said, this fellow Christian is guilty of greed and needs to be turned out of the church. He needs to be dealt with because of his greed.

Now we have to think this through practically. Do we really want to go around inspecting everybody's sin and having a church business meeting about it? I mean, would we want to correct somebody, for example, for making too many trips to McDonald's? Now the sin of gluttony is a serious sin. It really is. The Bible says a lot about gluttony, but you can think of ways gluttony would affect not only that person, but his family, and be a poor example to the church. But there's probably a better way to handle a bloated believer than having a public church meeting about them. Those things are handled better in private or with two or three that are concerned with that individual. But there are some sins that demand more drastic action.

I want to give you three categories of sin. First of all, sins that threaten the moral health of the church. Sins that threaten the moral health of the church. A church member who engages in sexual immorality that is well-known, he's engaged in financial impropriety, first of all, that sinning Christian weakens the moral authority of the church outside of the church. The church can't speak out against things that it refuses to condemn. That's what Paul so harshly addressed the church at Corinth. He said, you're boasting about the fact that you're not disciplining this sinning church member sleeping with his stepmother. It's to your shame. You've become a laughingstock, your church, in the city of Corinth. 1 Corinthians 5:6, "Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough"?

Through the years, I can't tell you how many times, in different churches I've pastored, I've had people in the community say to me, not members of our church, saying, "I can't believe you allow so and so to be a member of your church. Don't you know what he or she is doing"? And then they'll list off their sins. It weakens the moral authority of the church in the community. Not to deal with sin also weakens the moral authority of the church within the congregation. When there is well-known sin that we refuse to handle, it's like our church is giving our stamp of approval on that behavior to other church members, as well. That's why Paul said to Timothy, in talking about elders in the church, he said, "Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest may be fearful of sinning, as well".

Sins that threaten the moral health of the congregation. Secondly, sins that threaten the doctrinal health of the church. They have to be dealt with firmly. I remember, in my first church I pastored, I hadn't been there but a few weeks, and leaders came to see me, and they were telling about a Sunday school teacher who was not teaching the curriculum. Instead, she was teaching her own series on Bible prophecy, and talking about the relationship between the second coming of Jesus and Haley's comet. And you know, they wanted to know what I was going to do about that and so forth. Well, this woman wasn't guilty of heresy. She was guilty of stupidity, but not heresy. I mean, there was nothing heretical about what she was saying. It was just doubtful, so we removed her from her teaching position, but it wasn't worthy of being removed from the church. But there is some kind of doctrinal error that is much more serious. Any doctrinal teaching that denies the deity of Jesus Christ, the inerrancy of the scripture, the blood atonement of Jesus for our sins, those are serious doctrinal errors that must be dealt with.

Do you remember the church of Thyatira we looked at in our study of revelation, in revelation 2? There is a woman teaching in that church. She's referred to as Jezebel. We don't know if that's her real name or if she was like Jezebel from the Old Testament, but she was guilty of serious doctrinal error, and you know what the church leaders said in Thyatira? Oh, live and let live. In our church, we celebrate diversity of beliefs. We don't require everybody to teach the same time. We let people, the priesthood of the believer follow whatever doctrinal teaching they want to subscribe to. Jesus had a different word for that. In revelation 2:20, he condemned the church for not dealing with this false teacher. "But I have this again you, that you tolerate this woman, Jezebel". He condemned them for their tolerance.

Don't let anybody tell you tolerance is always a positive quality. It's not. Sometimes, it's a very negative quality. You're not to tolerate sin. You're certainly not to tolerate doctrinal error. "But this I have against you," Jesus said, "That you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads my bondservants astray, so that they commit sexual immorality, and they eat things sacrificed to idols". God has a zero tolerance level for false teaching in the church. It has to be confronted. We've talked about sins that threaten the moral health, the doctrinal health.

Thirdly, sins that threaten the emotional health of the church. Sins that threaten the emotional health, the unity of the church. Let's be honest. We all kinda have different categories of sins. We think about the really big sins. You know what the big three are: adultery, murder, theft. Oh, those are sins that have to be dealt with, but sins like gossip, criticism, slander, we kinda see those as secondary or tertiary sins. Well, everybody does it, not that big of a deal. But those sins can destroy a congregation if not dealt with. Remember what James said, in James 3:5, about the power of our words? He said, "See how a great force is set aflame by such a small fire". We've all read those stories.

One cigarette butt that's not extinguished, is thrown out on a roadside, and it sets thousands of acres of a forest on fire, and destroys them. That's what one careless word can do in the midst of a congregation. One little piece of gossip, one false report can destroy an entire church. I've seen that happen before. Many of you have, as well. How do we keep that from happening? Ephesians 4:3 says, "Be diligent to preserve the unity of spirit in the bond of peace". That means when we confront, or come upon these sins, we need to confront them. You know, I'd like to remind our congregation that as we move in and out among other church members in our Sunday school class, our small group, discipleship university, as we interact during the week with one another, we're carrying two buckets with us.

Just imagine yourself walking around with two buckets. One hand is a bucket of water. The other hand is a bucket of gasoline, and it's normal, when we come into contact with one another, we come upon sparks of controversy all the time, little conversations that go on like, oh, did you hear what the pastor did last week? Or, how do you really feel about the music in our church? Or, you know, I wondered if you would pray with me about the direction of our church. I'm very concerned about the direction of our church. Here are these little sparks of controversy. We have a choice when we come upon those sparks of controversy. We can take our bucket of water and extinguish that spark by what we say.

You know, I doubt that's true. Or have you checked with the person about it personally? Or maybe that's not the whole story. We can douse it with water, or we can pour a bucket of gasoline on that spark and fuel that flame until it destroys everything and everyone. We are called as a church, as individual members of the body of Christ to be fire extinguishers wherever we find those sparks going around. And when somebody refuses to do that, when somebody is continually fueling the flame of controversy in the church, we cannot afford to leave that alone. It has to be dealt with. In Romans 16:17, Paul said, "Now I urge you, brothers and sisters, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you have learned, and turn away from them".

In a previous church, we had a leader who was always fueling the flame of controversy. He was making false statements about the finances of the church. He was constantly criticizing staff members and finally, the leaders of our church met and said, we can't put up with this any longer. It is hurting our church, and they had the audacity, the boldness, the courage to remove this person from their place of leadership, and the controversy disappeared. You think that's drastic? Listen again to what the Word of God says. Titus 3:10-11, "Reject a divisive person after a first and second warning". Oh, pastor, we're supposed to love these people, we're supposed to welcome it. Nope, that's not what the Word of God says. You reject 'em after a first and second warning, "Knowing that such a person has deviated from what is right and is sinning, being self-condemned".
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